Thursday, 21 July 2011

There Would Go I


Joburg, Joburg, Joburg. Thou seething cauldron of psychoses. How it strains the human animal to live within you.

This afternoon, in broad daylight, Warren came close to being hijacked. He was coming off work, coming to pick me up, and he was stopped at a traffic light in the city centre, light on red, a bus behind him.

Out of nowhere there came two youngsters, apparently unarmed and begging. One approached his car from the rear, one from the side. Warren kept his eyes on both of them, as you do, in Joburg. Suddenly, the one on the driver's side produced a gun from the back of his jeans and leveled it at Warren. Warren did, in my opinion, precisely the right thing - he put the accelerator pedal down and skipped the traffic light.

My partner of 12 years says he wanted to grab the armed youth and drag him across the intersection with him. While I sympathise fully, I'm very glad he didn't, but rather escaped to circle back, fetch the cops,and find out why his guards, who were supposed to be patrolling that corner, were nowhere in sight.

I nearly lost my beloved human companion this afternoon. The guards? They're unarmed, what can they do?
And the laaitjies, who apparently strolled into a nearby shebeen after being cheated of their prey?
Well, I can only take a flying guess at the level of desperation and dislocation from one's own human soul which enables a youngster to amble up to a perfect stranger in a car, in the middle of a busy afternoon, pull a gun on him and demand his valuables. For I can't think that they were after the car. No-one would put out a call for a 12 year old Daewoo. Even for the spare parts. No, it was almost certainly wallet, watch and cellphone they were seeking.

And this is by no means an unusual occurrence in dear Joburg. It happens many times a day. I can hope that, after the guards and police were put on notice, that the pair of robbers went elsewhere. I am entirely conflicted as to whether I hope they made a catch or not. For, appalled as I am that the potential violence of the desperately disenfranchised has struck so close to me, I cannot help but try to understand what depth of dissociation brings forth such acts in human people. It's a grey and black picture, indeed.

And there, but for the grace of something I am only now attempting to understand, these last dozen years, there, but for that luminous, ineffable grace, would most certainly go I.